Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

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Online Legal Help Center becomes largest collaborative resource compilation in the state

Interactive website offers step-by-step help with legal issues in family law, small claims, appeals, protective order, and landlord/tenant cases, as well as access to laws, rules, and forms.


Chief Justice Nancy Rice's vision to work toward closing the "Justice Gap" and implement an online legal help center in Colorado has come to fruition.

The Colorado Legal Help Center is a new interactive website to provide users, specifically unrepresented litigants, with the ability to evaluate what legal assistance they might need and where they can go to find it.

According to Dan Cordova, Colorado Supreme Court librarian and interim Executive Director of the Colorado Legal Help Center, the number of cases in Colorado without attorney assistance last year, in some cases, was between 70 and 90 percent.

This makes the Colorado Legal Help Center a much-needed resource in the State of Colorado. The Colorado Judicial Branch prioritized this need in 2013, and the wheels were set in motion to help unrepresented individuals.

“Access to justice isn’t just making sure the front door of the court house is open,” Steven Vasconcellos, Senior Manager for the Court Services Division of the Colorado Judicial Branch, said. “It’s the time and effort spent on educating folks, and arming them with the tools they need to see their cases through.”

Vasconcellos has been a part of the Colorado Judicial Branch for more than 20 years. He also serves on the Colorado Legal Help Center Advisory Board, where he lends an operational eye to its members and also provides insight during his own time as a pro se clerk in the 1990s.

Vasconcellos said he believes the Help Center would serve a “tiered-level of constituencies,” functioning not only as an informational hub, but also providing legal resources, and knowledge about legal representation, to further educate the public and the state’s own self-represented litigant coordinators.

Users can navigate to the homepage page at Once there, they are directed to navigate one of the three paths which best suits their situation and need, as outlined below:


·       A Lawyer’s Help

o   Find information on legal representation and help finding a lawyer. This option also gives the reader the opportunity to learn more about lawyers and legal representation, and if that course of action best suits their needs.


·       Help with my Legal Issue

o   Step-by-step help with legal issues for someone who may not be ready to seek legal counsel. This option allows users to choose their type of legal issue, whether they are the petitioner or respondent, and a step-by-step breakdown of the court process involved.

o   General legal information is also available for readers to learn more about the judicial system, court processes, appearing in court before a judge, and filing court forms and fees.


·       Access to Legal Materials

o   Provides research resources to those interested, including information on where to find court rules, statutes, and case law, as well as information on where to find applicable court forms and instructions.


Chief Justice Nancy Rice developed the idea for the Colorado Legal Help Center, then known as the Colorado Equal Access Center, in 2014. Shortly thereafter, Chief Justice Rice presented the idea to the Access to Justice Commission with the goal of using technology to help unrepresented litigants by targeting three specific, high-needs areas: domestic relations, landlord/tenant, and small claims.

The Center has since branched out to include eight legal areas, including: protective orders, collecting judgments, bankruptcy, immigration, and appeals.

Cordova said there are also big plans in the future to include website-wide multilingual functionality, with Spanish being the first conversion.


After introducing Spanish accessibility, Cordova said the Commission would look to bolster the resources available on the Center website, with the addition of legal issue areas including probate and traffic, along with supplementation to the Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) section.


For situations where there is no substitute for speaking with a live person, the Center has a separate page where users can quickly locate courts, self-help centers, legal aid services, legal assistance clinics, legal information events, and public libraries nearest to them.

Vasconcellos said he believes this resource will hopefully reduce the overwhelming feeling most pro se litigants experience when handling court matters.


“There is a tremendous amount of information available to the community about how to navigate the legal system. The Legal Help Center will put it all together in one place,” Vasconcellos said. “It will pull all those threads together to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the time folks spend trying to locate the right information on their own.”


Overall, the Center is a robust resource that augments the work of the Colorado Bar Association and Colorado Legal Services. Within judicial, it provides another layer of assistance, along with the state's self-help centers, staffed by self-represented litigant coordinators, and the work of family court facilitators, to help shrink the access to justice gap in the State of Colorado.

This “Justice Gap” is apparent to much of the population throughout the country, especially in the civil and domestic relations cases that the Center focuses on. In cases such as these, the legal needs of low-income individuals and the justice system’s capacity to meet those needs is askew, generating a considerable barrier to the pro se individuals involved.


According to Colorado Judicial Branch Research and Data reports over the last three years, roughly three-quarters of the litigants were unrepresented in Colorado domestic relations cases. In two-thirds of all domestic relations cases, no lawyer represented either side. Finally, in county court civil cases, which consists primarily of money collections, evictions, and restraining orders, the unrepresented rate for responding parties held steady at 98 percent over the same three-year period.


The Colorado Legal Help Center was featured in a Colorado Lawyer article on September 9, 2016, titled “The Colorado Equal Access Center: Connecting Unrepresented Litigants to Legal Resources through Technology.”


The article, and its writers, Justice William Hood of the Colorado Supreme Court and Dan Cordova, Colorado Supreme Court librarian, were so influential that it went on to win a professional publication award from the Government Law Libraries Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries in July, 2017.